The Inspectorate of Government reported significant challenges in Uganda’s education sector. A total of Shs1.9 trillion was lost due to teacher absenteeism and corruption between January and June of 2022. The largest portion of this loss, Shs1.5 trillion, was attributed to teacher absenteeism, which is a complex problem influenced by various factors.
The report revealed that corruption in the education sector took two major forms: embezzlement of public education funds and teacher absenteeism. Embezzlement accounted for Shs244.6 billion in losses, while teacher absenteeism cost the budget approximately Shs180.5 billion. Additionally, bribery accounted for Shs39.08 billion in losses.
Ms. Ketty Lamaro, the Education ministry permanent secretary, acknowledged the severity of teacher absenteeism. She emphasized that absenteeism is a significant issue affecting the sector’s performance, with many teachers and head teachers being absent due to working in multiple schools. To address this problem, the government introduced the Teacher Effectiveness and Learner Achievement (TELA) automated system, initially using fingerprint login and later upgrading to facial recognition technology.
However, TELA has encountered challenges, including poor internet coverage in upcountry schools, hindering its effectiveness. Ms. Lamaro suggested that various stakeholders within the education sector should collaborate to tackle the issue of teacher absenteeism, as the ministry lacks the necessary funds for inspection.
Mr. Filbert Baguma, the secretary general of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU), expressed concern about the situation, attributing it to salary discrepancies and economic challenges. He emphasized the need to address teacher welfare and the root causes of absenteeism before implementing tracking systems like TELA.
Mr. Moses Byaruhanga, a senior presidential advisor, highlighted the impact of the post-Covid pandemic environment on absenteeism, where individuals pursued dual careers and occupations. He advocated for government support for technological solutions like TELA to combat corruption and ensure teacher and student attendance.
Mr. Gerald Karyeija, the dean of public administration at Uganda Management Institute, pointed out a cultural dimension to the problem, particularly in rural areas. He suggested cultural adjustment mechanisms and the strengthening of leadership and supervisory skills, along with a rewarding system for high-performing schools.
The Inspectorate of Government calculated the total loss due to teacher absenteeism based on the average teaching time per day, the hours lost to absenteeism, the number of students, and the cost of teaching per student. This calculation resulted in an estimated loss of Shs1.47 trillion annually.